A short history of Metfield Stores
How the sinking village shop was saved by the community and how it began its transformation into a living, breathing place of social and economic importance to the local economy.
When the original shop closed down at the end of 2005, there were fears that Metfield would go the way of its surrounding villages and lose its shop forever. A group of villagers came together with the aim of promoting a community buy-out of the shop, but at a public meeting no consensus could be reached on how to do it.
saves the day
'We couldn't lose. If the shop didn't work, we had at least given it a go; if it did work, many options were open. It could continue to run as a community shop or be sold as a sustainable business. In any event, the shop could be saved', said Rachel.
But Rachel was leaving immediately to spend 6 months in India so she gave power of attourney to two members of the core group to act on her behalf. At the time of the auction, Rachel was travelling on a train between Goa and Mumbai listening live to the auction taking place in Beccles on her mobile phone. Just as the auction was reaching its climax, the train entered a tunnel and she lost the connection. It was not until some hours later that she learned she had successfully bought the shop at the guide price of £180,000.
Retired builder, Gorden Lee, came out of retirement and whistled his way through stripping out, rebuilding and refitting the shop; people wielding paint brushes turned up; professional sign painters emerged; classy London designers talked colour; and Bridget Morley worked miracles.The structure
A steering group and two directors, Martin Wolfe and Alan Strevens, worked away behind the scenes, getting the business side of the project up and running, forming a limited company, applying for grants and investigating stock suppliers.
returns to UK
Six months later, Rachel returned to England on the very day the shop opened its doors and found it had been skilfully transformed.
'It surprised us all, I think, the diverse skills that existed in the village, and the enormous generosity of so many in this small community of 400 people, who consistently gave both practical and financial help. It is a testament to this generosity of spirit that the shop is open at all', she said.
WE LOVE OUR SHOP
'People coming in are all enthusiastic about the community element of the shop, asking questions, saying, "Best of luck: we lost our shop and we miss it".'
'Once you've served behind the counter, shopping for yourself isn't the same – you notice things you'd never noticed before, not only the price but where it comes from. And you get a till-skill appreciation!'
'When you live outside the village, it's stimulating to meet so many different people'.
'Everyone is so patient, realising that you are not an expert!' said Barbara Vidion a volunteer.
'I haven't been to a supermarket since the shop opened,' said Suzie Harries, local resident.
'I shop completely differently now. Instead of making a list of what I think I want, I go to the shop and see what's there,' said a local volunteer-cum-shopper.
The costs of the renovations were met from over £12,000 raised in share capital – from individual villagers buying blocks of £1 shares, £7,000 invested by Rachel as landlord, together with a very welcome grant of £5,000 from the Suffolk Village Shops Group (ViRSA). As well as giving this grant and welcome advice, ViRSA, in the form of Liz Anderson, put Metfield in contact with Rattlesden Community Shop, who donated a free chiller counter – vital for the new delicatessen counter.
'If this level of sales continues,' reported Rachel, 'it will yield a substantially higher turnover that will comfortably cover operating costs, and hopefully employ more people from the village.'
The Stores has gone from strength to strength since then, becoming the hub of the village and creating a lifeline for many of its volunteers.